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Late free throws lift Eleanor Roosevelt to victory over Dulaney in Class 4A state semifinals

Isaiah Gross made three free throws with 15.8 seconds left in the fourth quarter and Eleanor Roosevelt (24-3) survived after a missed 3-pointer at the buzzer by Dulaney’s Cam Byers for a 63-61 victory in the Class 4A state semifinals at the Xfinity Center at the University of Maryland on Thursday night.

The Raiders trailed 61-56 after Dulaney junior Che Evans (17 points, 10 rebounds) made a free throw with 53.4 seconds left.

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A layup by Cam Brown (15 points) made it 61-58 with 48. 7 seconds left and five seconds later a putback by Jaamir Butler pulled the Raiders within one, 61-60, setting up the clutch free throws by Gross (16 points), who made 11 of 13 free throws.

In addition to Evans, Ike Cornish (15 points), Byers (12 points) and Ryan Conway (11 points, six assists) also scored in double figures for the Lions (22-4), who trailed 35-20 with 2:02 left in the first half.

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“I thought in the first half we had a chance to really stretch it out and they showed a lot of character fighting back and we knew that,” Eleanor Roosevelt coach Brendan O’Connell said. “They’ve got a good coach, good program, but that was a battle tonight.”

Dulaney’s second quarter lapse actually began at the end of the first quarter.

Trailing 17-13 Conway made two free throws to cut the deficit to two, but on the Lions final possession, Conway was called for a charging foul and the buzzer-beating basket was nullified.

In the first 41 seconds of the second quarter, Byers and Evans were also called for charging fouls and the Raiders went on a 18-7 scoring run to build the 15-point lead.

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Dulaney closed with a 7-2 run in the final 83 seconds and trailed 39-29 at halftime.

Evans scored on a layup, Jaylin Webster made a 3–pointer and Evans canned a jumper from the foul line to close out the half.

“Did I feel like we were the underdog, Yea, that’s a senior –dominated team, they are more experienced then us, but we didn’t get too caught up in that, we know we can put the ball in the basket, we know we have the talent, we know we could get stops when needed and it never showed more then being down 10 and coming out and cutting it to five,” Dulaney coach Matt Lochte said.

The Lions did more than cut the halftime deficit to five.

They tied the game at 45-45 on a deep 3-pointer by Conway with 2:19 left in the third quarter.

But, the Raiders answered with seven straight points in the final 1:38 and led 52-45 after three quarters.

Brown started the scoring with a block and dunk and Jahari Simon made a 3-pointer.

Kyle Rose’s layup with two seconds left pushed the lead to seven.

After falling behind by nine, following Simon’s jumper from the foul line, Dulaney scored 10 consecutive points and led 55-54 after Brantley’s trey with 3:42 left in the game.

Evans made a 3-pointer during the Lions 10-0 surge.

With 2:35 left, Cornish scored on a putback, making it 57-54, and a 3-pointer by Cornish off a Byers assist bumped the lead to 60-54 with 1:37 remaining.

Two free throws by Gross made it 60-56 with 1:12 left and Evans made his free throw for the Lions’ final point.

Following the baskets by Brown and Butler, Conway missed the front end of a 1-and-1 with 27.9 seconds left, setting up the Gross 3-pointer when he was fouled by Byers.

“I closed out and I made sure that I ran beside him, so that I wasn’t able to foul him, he kicked his leg out,” Byers said.

“We practice time and score on a daily basis and I just let it fly, I didn’t think he was going to foul me because my purpose was to hit the shot, but me getting fouled was icing on the cake to me, so I’m glad that he fouled me,” said Gross, who will play at William & Mary next year.

Making all three free throws added extra frosting to the cake, but they still had to get a stop at the other end and they did.

“I’m super proud of the guys, Cam ends up with the ball, gets a great look, takes a great shot, it just doesn’t go in,” Lochte said. “Eleanor Roosevelt got the stop and we didn’t get the bucket.”

Despite the loss, the Lions still can take pride in the fact they won the school’s first regional title in boys basketball since 1977.

“We took another step in our program, we are going to be back, but we should enjoy this season, the season was not a failure,” Lochte said.

“I would say as a program, we learned a lot, more like brotherhood and coming together and playing for each other,” Byers said. “I feel like this loss is going to make us even closer for next year.”

Four of the five starters will return next year. Conway and Cornish are sophomores and Byers and Evans are juniors.

Cam Amoruso (six rebounds, two blocked shots) was the only senior starter.

“It was a great experience because last year we came up a little short and this year we played hard and won a regional championship, so I feel like this is a great experience and we will be back next year,” Cornish said.

Conway appreciated the season as well.

“It was a huge experience, 42 years since we won a championship, so that was a big goal for us,” Conway said. “We didn’t accomplish all the goals that we set out in the beginning of the season, but I think overall, we still had a pretty great season and I’m just thankful to be with my guys.”

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